Saturday, December 20, 2008
Game 27: Nuggets @ Suns
(Boulder-CO) Tonight, the Nuggets look to bounce back after consecutive losses to the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers. The order is a tall one, but I think Denver has shown us resolve after coming off of tough losses this year and what a better time to break out of their losing ways than beating the Suns on their home floor. However, you should know that the Nuggets haven't been able to steal a win in Phoenix in over three years and Denver hasn't lost three straight games yet this season so let's hope both streaks end tonight.
It's been made painfully apparent in the last two games against teams with the size of Yao Ming and Zydrunas Ilgauskas that the smaller front line of the Nuggets is a real liability defensively. This has me worried going into tonight because the Suns have the rather large duo of Amar'e Stoudemire and Shaq. The pair are averaging a combined 38.2 points per game and better than 16 rebounds which could be a stat line Denver could live with seeing as they allowed Yao 32 points when he is averaging just 20 on the year and 23 points to Ilgauskas when he is typically in the mid-teens every night.
As for how the Nuggets and Suns match-up by the numbers...
Let's just say they're pretty even. The Suns are 15-11 while the Nuggets are 17-9, Denver is 4th in the league in scoring per game while Phoenix is 5th, and both teams average more than 20 turnovers a game.
However, the Suns are a team in evolution since trading for Jason Richardson from the Bobcats and with the toughness and speed of Matt Barnes the Suns aren't looking to hold up the game for Shaq to make it down the floor. This has resurrected the fast break ghosts of former coach Mike D'Antoni and as a result the pace of Phoenix's play has increased dramatically and their defense has struggled. In their last eleven games, the Suns have given up at least 100 points including two games in their last five of which they allowed more than 120. Meanwhile, the Nuggets (a team that used to be synonymous with scoring) haven't scored more than 98 points in their last three games and have looked confused against the top echelon defenses of the Rockets and Cleveland.
So, tonight I think the Nuggets could desperately use to get out on the fast break and run when at all possible. Carmelo needs a big game offensively to boost his confidence and it wouldn't hurt he and Chauncey to get to the free-throw line for more than 10 attempts each. The Suns are more than willing to try and outscore their opposition, but Denver has to find a way to regain their defensive strength in the paint to find themselves on the right side of the score when this game is over.